Europe completes historic comeback to win Ryder Cup

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Europe completes historic comeback to win Ryder Cup

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Erasing some of their worst Ryder Cup memories, the Europeans wore the image of Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and played their hearts out Sunday at Medinah to match the greatest comeback in history and head home with that precious gold trophy.

Europe got its payback for Brookline, when the Americans roared back from the same 10-6 deficit. This rally was even more remarkable, carried out before a raucous American crowd that began their chants of "USA!" some three hours before the first match got under way.

Jose Maria Olazabal squeezed his eyes and fought back tears when Martin Kaymer holed a 6-foot par putt to beat Steve Stricker and give Europe the point it needed to keep the cup. This was the first Ryder Cup since Ballesteros, the soul of European golf in this event, died in May 2011 of a brain tumor. Olazabal wanted his team to wear navy blue, Seve's favorite color, and added a clever touch -- his iconic silhouette on the sleeves of their shirts.

"This one is for all of Europe," Olazabal said. "Seve will always be present with this team. He was a big factor for this event for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing. And I think they did."

Tiger Woods missed a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole, and then conceded a par to Francesco Molinari of about that length to halve their match. That extra half-point made it a clear-cut win for Europe, 14-13.

Woods and Stricker, the anchors in the lineup, didn't win a single match at Medinah.

Ian Poulter was the first to embrace Olazabal, which was only fitting.

It was Poulter who gave Europe hope Saturday evening when he made five straight birdies to turn a loss into a win and swing momentum in Europe's favor. Poulter was up to his fist-pumping, eye-bulging tricks again on the final day, winning the last two holes in his match against U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

And he had plenty of help. Europe's top five players in the lineup all won, including Rory McIlroy, who was lucky to be playing. McIlroy thought his match was at 12:25 p.m. -- it was listed in Eastern time, not Central -- and needed a police escort to get to the course with 10 minutes to spare. Then, he came up with key birdies to hand Keegan Bradley his first loss of the week.

The biggest match might have belonged to Justin Rose. He was on the verge of losing to Phil Mickelson when Rose holed a 12-foot par putt to halve the 16th, made a 35-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green to win the hole, and then closed out Mickelson with a 12-foot birdie on the last hole.

Six of the 12 matches went to the 18th hole on Sunday. The Americans won only one of them.

The Americans also rallied from a four-point deficit to win in 1999 at Brookline. This was different, though. The Americans won big in those early matches. At Medinah, so many of them could have gone either way.

It was so close, so tense, that either side could have won the Ryder Cup down to the very end.

Stricker made an 8-foot par putt on the 18th, and Kaymer faced a par putt from 6 feet to win the match. If he missed, the Americans would get a half-point, and Woods was leading 1-up over Molinari and in the middle of the 18th fairway.

Kaymer, a former No. 1 and major champion who has struggled all year, poured it in the middle and the celebration was on.

He could barely speak at this point, not so much from pure emotion but having to scream over the crowd behind him. Players were hugging and crying, and the small European contingent that had been drowned out all week was serenading themselves with what has become the theme song of the Ryder Cup.

"Ole, ole, ole, ole," they sang merrily, even as the teams prepared for the closing ceremony.

Europe now has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, and even more remarkable about this comeback is that it did it on the road.

Davis Love III became the first U.S. captain to sit every player at least once before Sunday, wanting them to be fresh for the decisive day. Instead, the Americans faltered at the end -- especially Jim Furyk and Stricker, two of his captain's picks.

"The plan worked the first two days," he said. "It just didn't work today."

The only U.S. points came from Dustin Johnson, who went 3-0 in this Ryder Cup, Zach Johnson and unheralded Jason Dufner.

"We're all kind of stunned," Love said. "We know what it feels like now from the '99 Ryder Cup. It's a little bit shocking. We were playing so well, we figured it didn't matter how we sent them out there. We got a couple of matches flipped there in the middle that cost us."

Love thought all along the Ryder Cup would be decided in the ninth match by Dufner. It was most appropriate that Europe won the cup thanks to Kaymer.

Kaymer gave German golf some redemption from Kiawah Island in 1991, when countryman Bernhard Langer missed a par putt from about the same length that allowed the Americans to win.

"It's a feeling I never had before," Kaymer said. "On Friday, I sat down with Bernhard and talked a little bit about the Ryder Cup because my attitude was not the right one. But now I know how important the Ryder Cup is."

It means everything to Europe, and it showed.

They didn't have a home crowd to rally them, relying instead on the silence.

"Last time it was done, it was the American team in America," Lee Westwood said after closing out Matt Kuchar in 16 holes. "This would be against all odds. This would be the greatest comeback in the Ryder Cup -- ever."

And it was a collapse the Americans won't soon forget. Just 24 hours earlier, they had a 10-4 lead with two team matches still on the course -- they were ahead in one of them, while Woods and Stricker were closing in on the other. It's hard to believe they would only win 3 points the rest of the way.

Europe came out fast, and for McIlroy, that started at his hotel.

He was leisurely heading out of the hotel -- thinking that his tee time was an hour later than it was -- when he got a frantic call to tell him his match was in 25 minutes. McIlroy was lucky to run into the police, who helped him get to Medinah with enough time to change his shoes, take a few putts and head to the tee box.

He never trailed in his match, making two straight birdies late to knock off Bradley.

"It's my own fault," McIlroy said. "If I let down these 11 other boys and vice captains and captains this week, I would never forgive myself. I'm just obviously happy to get the point and help the cause out a little bit today."

Everyone pitched in.

Luke Donald, who makes Chicago his home and had a small share of gallery support, overwhelmed Bubba Watson despite being some 50 yards behind him off the tee. Paul Lawrie, returning to the Ryder Cup after a 13-year absence, had the shortest match of the day against FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker. Poulter outlasted Simpson when the U.S. Open champion hit into a bunker on the 17th and made bogey, and then hit well long on the 18th when he needed a birdie to halve the match.

Still, the key point might have been delivered by Rose.

Mickelson surged ahead with a birdie on the 14th and still had a 1-up lead on the 17th. Behind the green, Mickelson hit a chip that looked like it might go in until the last turn. He was certain to make par. Rose drained his 35-footer to square the match, then finished off the birdie-birdie finish to a point Europe wasn't expecting.

"I was shaking a little bit and I said to myself, 'Rosey, this is what the whole week could come down to for you,'" he said. "Coming off the green here, I've looked down on my left sleeve, and that's the kind of thing Seve would have done for sure."

Jack Nicklaus first suggested in 1977 that all of Europe be included in the Ryder Cup, which brought the great Ballesteros into the matches. He was determined to prove that Europeans were equal to the Americans, and they have shown to be every bit of that over the last three decades.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Mitch Lewis (TE), Naperville North

Naperville North senior three-star ranked tight end Mitch Lewis (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) has seen his overall recruiting stock soar over the past month, as he's now touting 10 verbal scholarship offers and has more interest growing by the day.

"It's been a pretty wild last week or two," Lewis said. "It just seems like a lot of schools decided to offer me. It all came out of nowhere to be honest and it feels pretty amazing."

Lewis has added several of his 10 offers over the past few weeks and ran down his list of offers.

"I have offers now from Hawaii, Wyoming, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, South Dakota, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Northern Iowa," Lewis said. "Also Iowa, Penn State and Purdue have also been in touch weekly, and both Iowa and Penn State are coming to watch one of my basketball games this week. I have a feeling some of the Big Ten schools are getting closer to offering me."

Lewis, who made his first official visit to Wyoming back in November is planning to set more official visits in January.

Joshua Maize (DE), Deerfield

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) has switched up his planned official visit schedule, and he will make his first official visit this weekend.

"I'm making my first official visit to UConn this weekend," Maize said. "I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule. I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule since I was the only recruit scheduled to visit."

So what is Maize looking for when he visits UConn?

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the campus and the surrounding area," Maize said. "I've never been out East before so I want to see what UConn has to offer. I'm also looking forward to getting to know the coaches and the guys on the team. UConn also is supposed to have great facilities and I'm excited to see the different facilities along with the overall environment at UConn."

Maize has also drawn late recruiting interest from a handful of schools.

"Syracuse has been showing a lot more interest," Maize said. "They have a few offers out to Juco kids so they are waiting to see what happens. Syracuse wants me to make an official visit in January. I'm also talking weekly with Toledo and Central Michigan. I'm sure I'll set more visits in January but for now my focus is on UConn this weekend."

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Nick Marozas (OL), Brother Rice

Brother Rice junior offensive linemen Nick Marozas (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) added his first scholarship on Monday from Minnesota.

"Getting my first offer from Minnesota feels great," Marozas said. "It was a bit of a surprise. I talked to one of the coaches on Monday morning and then later in the day they called my coaches at school then they offered me a scholarship."

Marozas visited Minnesota earlier this fall and came away impressed with the Gophers.

"I visited Minnesota last month for the Homecoming game against Purdue," Marozas said. "I had a chance to talk to the coaches at Minnesota on that visit and that went well. I liked the campus, the facilities and the stadium. Minnesota is just a great program and school and it's pretty exciting to get my first offer from a great Big Ten program."

Marozas has drawn interest from Minnesota along with Syracuse, Illinois, Indiana, Northern Illinois and Navy. Marozas plans to make a mid January unofficial visit to Syracuse.

Alec Palczewski (OT), Prospect

Prospect senior offensive tackle Alec Palczewski (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock soar late this fall. Palczewski, who added his first offer from Illinois a few weeks ago, now has added offers from the Fighting Illini along with Vanderbilt and Syracuse. Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana have also started to take interest in Palczewski.

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

Rick Hahn: White Sox 'still thoroughly, deeply engaged' in trade talks as meetings close

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The White Sox have a pair of relievers to dangle and have become increasingly busier with two of three free-agent closers off the board.

Prior to leaving the Winter Meetings on Thursday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was asked if a pool of relievers including closer David Robertson and setup man Nate Jones had drawn much interest.

Having already traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, it’s believed the White Sox are willing to part with most anyone if the price is right. It sounds as if that possibility has improved after the Yankees’ late night signing of Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday, two days after the San Francisco Giants signed Mark Melancon. With only Kenley Jansen still left in free agency and due a big salary, Robertson, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, could solve several teams’ relief needs. Jones is also a draw with potentially five years left on his current team-friendly deal, which includes two club options and one mutual option for 2021.

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“We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations on a number of different fronts involving are players,” Hahn said. “And yes, we still have reliever pieces and starting pieces that are appealing to various teams throughout the league. I don’t think anything is going to happen between now and the time I go pick up my bags and head to the airport. But still thoroughly engaged, deeply engaged on a number of different fronts.”

Despite adding five pitchers and two position players through their first two moves, the White Sox still have a long list of desires. That list potentially includes a long-term starting catcher and another big bat among others.